Democrats are in deep defense mode as they work to counter Republican efforts to repeal their hard-won healthcare reform legislation. On Tuesday, House Republicans and Democrats began a seven-hour debate on the issue that will be continued on today before a scheduled afternoon vote.
But as even Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged during his weekly press briefing, months after the bill was signed into law, his party has failed to successfully sell its benefits to the American public.
“None of us did a good enough job, because public opinion is divided and unsure of whether this legislation is going to be positive for them and their families,” Hoyer said. “About half are, and about half are not sure.” A Gallup poll taken earlier this month confirms his assertion and found that 46% of Americans want their representatives to repeal the legislation, 40% want it to stand, and 14% have no opinion.
To remind voters of what’s at stake, Democrats staged an elaborate mock hearing that featured people from around the country, who shared tales of health-coverage woes. The Hispanic, Black and Asian Pacific American caucuses will hold a press conference today to discuss how the bill impacts their constituents.
The Obama administration also participated in the sales pitch. The Department of Health and Human Services released a report Tuesday that found that 50 to 129 million non-elderly Americans have a pre-existing condition, 25 million of whom are uninsured. Rescinding the provision that prohibits insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions would severely limit their health care and coverage options and remove the ban on lifetime limits on benefits and restrictions on annual limits for benefits, the report said.
In a White House conference call with reporters, Garth Graham, M.D., HHS Deputy Secretary for Minority Health, said that a repeal would be particularly detrimental to African-Americans, who disproportionately suffer from pre-existing conditions and certain diseases. “The [reform] law contains more than 75 equity specific provisions that will help advance healthcare for minority communities across the board and for the African American community,” Graham said. In addition, the bill includes workforce provisions and incentives that would create a more diverse and culturally competent corps of healthcare givers who would practice in underserved urban and rural communities and research initiatives that would ensure that racial- and ethnic-minority issues are considered in the study of disease.
The conventional wisdom is that the Republican repeal is mostly symbolic and would never succeed in the Senate. During his weekly briefing with reporters, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Virginia) challenged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada) to hold a vote on a similar measure to prove to the American public that it cannot be passed in the upper chamber. Either way, House GOP lawmakers have a Plan B.
“If we are unsuccessful in seeing the Senate take up the repeal bill and the president signing a repeal bill of ObamaCare, we’ll do everything we can to delay and defund the provisions of the bill so that we can get some discussion going on how we can replace it, and come together on the agreement that we can’t accept the status quo,” Cantor said.
Read more of our news and political coverage: